Siraitia grosvenorii is an herbaceous perennial vine native to southern China and Northern Thailand and best known for its fruit, the luo han guo (simplified Chinese: 罗汉果; traditional Chinese: 羅漢果; pinyin: luóhàn guǒ; literally "arhat fruit", monk's fruit or la hán quả in Vietnamese).
It is one of four species in the genus Siraitia. Botanical synonyms include Momordica grosvenorii and Thladiantha grosvenorii. The fruit is one of several that have been called longevity fruit.
The other species of the genus Siraitia are: S. siamensis from Thailand, S. sikkimensis and S. silomaradjae from India, and S. taiwaniana from the Republic of China (Taiwan).
The vine grows to 3 to 5 m long, climbing over other plants by means of tendrils which twine round anything they touch. The narrow, heart-shaped leaves are 10–20 cm long. The fruit is globose, 5–7 cm in diameter, and contains a sweet, fleshy, edible pulp and numerous seeds.
The fruit extract is nearly 300 times sweeter than sugar and has been used as a natural sweetener in China for nearly a millennium due to its flavor and lack of food energy, only 2.3 kcal/g (9.6 kJ/g). It has also been used in traditional Chinese medicine.
It is grown primarily in the southwestern Chinese province of Guangxi (mostly in the mountains of Guilin), as well as in Guangdong, Guizhou, Hunan, and Jiangxi. These mountains lend the plants shadows and often are surrounded by mists; because of this the plants are protected from the sun. Nonetheless, the climate in this southern province is warm. The plant is rarely found in the wild and has hence been cultivated for hundreds of years.
Records as early as 1813 mention the cultivation of this plant in the Guangxi province. At present, the Guilin mountains harbor a plantation of 16 square kilometers with a yearly output of about 10,000 fruits.
Most of the plantations are located in Yongfu County and Lingui County, which in China are renowned for the extraordinary number of centenarians. This is sometimes attributed to the consumption of this fruit and the unspoiled nature. The locals, however, believe in their calm lifestyle and simple diet.
Longjiang town ("Dragon River") in Yongfu County has acquired the name "home of the Chinese luohanguo fruit"; a number of companies specialised in making luohanguo extracts and finished products have been set up in the area. The Yongfu Pharmaceutical Factory is the oldest of these.
The plant is most prized for its sweet fruits, which are used for medicinal purposes, and as a sweetener.The fruits are generally sold in dried form, and traditionally used in herbal tea or soup. They are used for respiratory ailments, sore throats and reputed to aid longevity.
See Also: bunga, toko bunga, bunga papan